The Transition Companion Reviewed

Rob Hopkins’ latest book, The Transition Companion, gathers together a cornucopia of transition experiences from around the world and presents them in short ‘chapters’ that are very readable and easily digested. Indeed, the book treats the different elements as if they were like ingredients for a cake, and, as Rob says, different chefs will produce different cakes from the same ingredients, but they will all follow certain fundamental steps. For instance, if you don’t mix the ingredients together , you’re going to end up with something totally indigestible. Likewise with Transition groups: they are all different, adapting themselves to local needs and evolving according to local circumstances, but they all have certain key elements which underpin them, such as incorporating permaculture principles into their core values as they seek to strengthen local resilience in the face of the multiple threats of climate change, peak oil and economic crisis.

There is tremendous scope for innovative ideas and creative responses to the situation we are in, and the Companion celebrates this diversity, and is anything but prescriptive in what needs to be done to create a truly sustainable future. All aspects of setting up a transition group are looked at by using input from groups all around the world – Transition has taken off in countries as diverse as Japan, the USA, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, Australia, and the UK. I think much of the appeal of Transition is that there is no affiliation to any political group; it welcomes everyone and recognises that each of us has a contribution to make; it has no real leaders but relies upon the organisational and cooperative abilities of its ordinary members; and it is focused upon doing positive things rather than moaning about what’s wrong with the world, whilst keeping itself fully aware of  the environmental and economic crises facing us. I can think of no other organisation or movement which has such breadth of vision and depth of understanding, and which resolutely remains open to all ideas and suggestions for improvement. Indeed it has a truly radical vision of how to develop a far more sustainable, healthier and happier society, and it puts its money where its mouth is – it’s setting up the projects which it talks about, and showing in the most practical way that these ideas produce the goods.

The Transition Companion shows how the emphasis has evolved from a somewhat linear, 12-step process to a more holistic system which is expanding in all directions at once.

Whatever your interest is, you can get involved in it in a transition group. Localising food and agriculture is one area that nearly all groups get heavily involved in, and with good reason considering the heavy reliance of modern agriculture on oil-based inputs. Schemes to produce renewable energy locally are also popular, and creating a local currency to ensure that money stays longer and does more ‘work’ in the locality is also taking off in a number of places. The book looks at these, plus many other ideas for localisation, including how to establish links with local councils so as to try to influence them into tackling peak oil.

Emphasis is put upon the need to have a core group as the initial driving force behind a Transition initiative, and useful information is given on how to run film shows, hold meetings, maintain enthusiasm and avoid burn-out. In fact, the book is packed with glimpses of transition groups in progress, and it’s impressive and inspiring.

Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how absurdly intransigent homo sapiens would prove to be when called upon to give up some of its hi-tech toys for the sake of our children’s future and the health of the planet. The refusal to even mention global warming as a cause of the wildly unbalanced weather we are seeing more and more of around the world, never mind do anything about it, is a sure sign that there’s no hope of getting anything done anywhere near the scale necessary and in the time available to prevent catastrophic climate changes in the lifetime of our children. What makes me continue trying to follow the vision of a better future, as sketched out in the Transition movement, is the fact that the remedies being experimented with are, for me, the right way to go even if global warming is a hoax, oil supplies are infinite and economic growth can go on forever and ever, amen. Rob Hopkins’ book gives us a hint of what a saner world could look like. Buy it, and then join or start your own Transition group.


About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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